West Tennessee Strawberry Festival
All the way from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Fulton, Kentucky people are willing to travel to see the Annual West Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Humboldt, Tennessee. The small town’s population swells from 10 thousand to anywhere between 70 and 90 thousand people during this week. This festival is the second longest running festival and is the largest in the state—just behind Mule Days in Columbia, Tennessee.
Kicking off on Sunday, May 5th, the festival runs a full week through May 11th. Beginning with a prayer breakfast, it ends with a Territorial Queens Revue (pageant). Nestled between those two events are fireworks on Monday night, two parades—the junior parade on Thursday and the Grand Parade on Friday—an art exhibit, a car show, a horse show, a recipe contest and tasting, strawberry shortcake, a 5k and 10k walk/run, and many, many more family fun activities. The festival boasts over 20 events: most are free but there are few that do require tickets.
When they say this festival is for everyone, it’s true. Humboldt hosts people from all over, most attendees are from the West Tennessee area; Gibson County Schools are even closed the Friday of the festival.
The West Tennessee Festival first began in 1934, during the Great Depression. It’s known as the “granddaddy of festivals in West Tennessee” and brought in much needed money to the area. It is an opportunity for a classic West Tennessee homecoming as people travel from across the country to enjoy the events, the food, and the fellowship of family and friends.
The very first festivals were designed as a way to market the community and all of West Tennessee in a challenging economy. Organizers went to state officials for support and came up with a celebration that included bringing the town and the surrounding community together. Now, it spans 9 blocks down Main Street. Though it only runs for a week, Beth Culpepper, the event coordinator for the Festival, spends all year working with various volunteers to make the event run smoothly. “It’s like a 2nd full-time job in addition to what I do for the Chamber (of Commerce).”
After the festival ends, she has a month to clean up and get the bills paid. Then, she starts working on next year’s festival. It takes a full year to put an event on this scale together. There are 22 food trucks on Main Street and other vendors begin arriving 10 days out from the Festival. One vendor has been a part of the festival for more than 50 years!
Culpepper doesn’t do this by herself; Amanda Love, Chelsea Caraway, and Betty Allen Langley all coordinate the event with her. This year’s theme for the festival is “Reflecting the Love of the Volunteer State.” The festival’s President and General Chairwoman are both volunteers from the community and collaborate with her on everything. The theme ties into Tennessee's nickname as well as honoring all the volunteers that make the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival possible.
This year is a special one: it’s the first year that the festival has had a trademarked logo and branding. They solicited the services of a Nashville designer who gave the festival fonts, logos, and a brand new website. It means a lot to the community and doing this ensure that running the festival will be possible for many more years to come.
The 82nd Annual West Tennessee Strawberry Festival runs from May 5th-May 11th, 2019. For a full list of times and events, please visit their website strawberryfestivaltn.com.